Friday, April 29, 2011

Zombies and You: Surviving the Ann Arbor Apocalypse

Preliminaries and Day One: Get to Safety

By now, many people have read Max Brooks’ World War Z and watched movies like Dawn of the Dead, so the majority of the populace more or less knows what it’s up against when the inevitable happens and the walking dead destroy human civilization. Max Brooks’ other novel, The Zombie Survival Guide, and movies like Zombieland enumerate tips for survival when confronted by your deceased loved ones, who now hunger for your brains. Resources such as these are useful from an awareness-raising perspective, but they paint in very broad strokes and provide little contextual guidance. The first installment of an Ann Arbor specific guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse follows.

Preliminary Preparations

There are a number of prerequisite skills necessary for the full utilization of this guide. 1) Learn how to operate firearms — it’s harder than it looks in movies and TV. Shotguns are most versatile. 2) Familiarize yourself with the basics of agriculture. 3) Learn first aid and anatomy. Useful for both fighting zombies and saving lives. 4) Look up how to siphon gas tanks. 5) Stay in shape! Be able to pull yourself up from a hanging position with just your upper body strength. 6) Learn to repair things like fuse boxes and automobiles. 7) Develop strong conflict resolution skills. This will prevent infighting among any other survivors with whom you band together. We have enough enemies as it is without turning on each other.

Finally, but most importantly, take special note of the scenes in zombie movies in which the protagonists hesitate when confronted with the familiar but necrotic faces of family members and friends. They are no longer the person you once loved! Come to terms with this harsh reality beforehand and save yourself from a similar fate.

These are just a sampling of possible survival skills. Individuals might find other additions useful. Would-be survivors should also assemble a starter survival kit. Recommended kits for natural disasters provide decent examples and are more or less analogous to what will be needed should your neighbors rise from the dead. Non-perishable food supplies and water, flashlights, waterproof and warm weather clothing, first aid supplies, etc. FEMA provides a decent list. Add to this: shotgun and shells, axe, metal baseball bat, or other blunt implements, goggles or facemask, and a sturdy leather jacket that will resist bites.

Find here a decent zombie survival simulator, Organ Trail.

Getting to Safety in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is not the worst city in which to find yourself should a zombie apocalypse occur. As of the 2010 census, there are 113,394 people residing in the city. The population density is 4,720.33 people per square mile. (That third of a person will probably be more accurate once reanimated amputees start crawling around the city streets.) Thus should a viral outbreak, curse, or whatever strike the world, Ann Arbor will have a fair amount of zombies, but not the overwhelming numbers that you might find in a larger city. Moving around the streets should not be as difficult as in more urbanized areas. A properly outfitted, armed, and coordinated band of survivors should be able to get to safety and procure supplies if they are careful.

The University of Michigan has a number of easily fortifiable buildings that will support a number of survivors. Although the riot-proof qualities of the Fleming Administration Building are more fiction than fact, this building would still provide a decent haven from the ravening undead hordes. It has limited ingress and egress and its roof is large enough to support limited agriculture or the placement of solar panels (which are also available on campus and will be discussed in a later installment.) This location is also advantageous because it is situated near the Michigan Union, which has a great deal of food stored within that might be salvaged.

The Burton Memorial Tower is also an easily defensible location for similar reasons. However, its footprint is smaller and it does not provide as much room for food supply cultivation on its roof.

The drawback of these locations is that they are located quite close to the University’s dormitories, which have the highest population density in Ann Arbor — and therefore the highest concentration of shambling undergrads who reek of death, many of whom will have been turned into zombies. However, properly fortified, these buildings provide a more defensible position than the common alternative — fleeing to the countyside.

Survivors might prefer leaving Ann Arbor, because it is relatively easy to reach the less densely populated areas of Michigan to the north and west. Of course, the farther north you go, the more difficult it gets to survive, especially if you do not have the manpower to secure a large enough area to farm — and this assumes sophisticated agricultural knowledge on the part of the survivors. Remaining in a medium-sized city with grocery stores and other sources of supplies would be the preferable option for most people. Subsequent installments of this guide will focus solely on survival in Ann Arbor.

Next week: Day Two: Securing Supplies.


  1. As long as the Zombies aren't organized by a zombie Fielding Yost, we should be fine. If they were, his brain a minute offense could be devastating to the remaining human survivors. I wouldn't use City Hall as a place though...they may already be zombies.

  2. When you mentioned shambling undergrads, I wasn't sure whether that was describing them as zombies, or just their normal state.